Thomas J. Nelson, who served as engineering dean for 19 years (1977 to 1996), passed away on May 6, 2014. A native of Budapest, Hungary, he was born Tamas Janos Neubauer; the family changed their last name to Nemenyi in 1939 to escape persecution by the Nazis, and changed that name to Nelson when they achieved U.S. citizenship in the 1950s. He earned bachelor and master of science degrees in electrical engineering from MIT and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1968. While working at RCA Laboratories he met and married Mary Baker in 1957. He taught at the University of Michigan before joining the UP engineering faculty in 1974. He began his tenure as dean on June 1, 1977, after being chosen from a field of 58 applicants.
Nelson was known as a tireless worker, and strove mightily to increase enrollment and excellence in the School of Engineering. On his watch the University chartered the Eta Kappa Nu national electrical engineering honor society; the Civil Engineering program was first accredited in 1980; an Engineering Management degree was inaugurated in 1983; a computer aided engineering laboratory was dedicated in Engineering (now Shiley) Hall in 1985; the University’s first fully endowed chair, the Edwin and Sharon Sweo Chair of Engineering, was established; and many other accomplishments. On his retirement ceremony in April 1996, University president Rev. David Tyson, C.S.C., said in part: “He provided stability, vision, and discipline to his school and so greatly advanced the University in the eyes of the city, state, and nation. He has also been an inspiring companion to many hundreds of members of this community, and we will remember him best as our friend Tom, who may stop being the Dean but will never stop being a memorable, diligent, and integral member of the University’s family.”
Survivors include his two sons, Peter and Theodore; Tom’s beloved Mary passed away in 2002. Services have been held. Our prayers and condolences to Tom’s family, friends, and colleagues.